My husband, daughter and I enjoyed a lovely party at our friends’ home a couple of weeks ago. Our friends have a large, beautifully decorated home with an incredible yard and in-ground swimming pool.
I came home and, as my mother used to say, “Wanted to kick my furniture.”
But, wait a second, I’m happy, right? I’m content, I’m at peace, right?
Yes, yes I am.
I just needed a gentle reminder that I am living MY definition of “The Good Life.”
(Side note: A week later we painted our bedroom a lovely Wedgewood blue and here is a photo of a finial I painted when our daughter and some of our friends went to a local paint-your-own-pottery place, Designing Dish.
Despite having developed a relatively simple and frugal lifestyle and also a deep sense of gratitude for all of my blessings, envy still creeps up on me, especially when I think I’ve tackled it. The only grace is that now I can quickly recognize that it’s not necessarily someone else’s things stirring up envy but the effect of someone else’s Good Life testing my own Good Life’s validity.
Hits me right in “the bread basket.”
Your financial predispositions have likely been formed not only as a result of your family and culture but also from many life experiences. In fact, it is possible to possess someone else’s perspective about money and not your own. I’ve seen this problem in my office many times and, as a result, many people never feel successful or happy because they are always measuring up to someone else’s definition of success and happiness.
I once had a couple in my office and the wife kept saying, “We’re such a mess. Our finances are such a mess.” After only a cursory review of their financial situation it was clear that, not only were they NOT a mess, they were doing quite well! She almost didn’t believe me until I reminded her that I am a fiduciary: It’s my responsibility to tell you the truth about money.
Do you want read a lovely blog post about happiness? Read The secret to a happy life. While many aspects of life in the country of Bhutan are unlikely to be implemented here in the United States, the insights gave me pause.
How much stuff do we really need?
How high is the bar now? Today? Right this minute (so I can leap over it)?
(Because I must in order to be deemed “successful.”)
My doctor (whom I’ve seen since I was 13) used to be in a solo practice in a normal South Buffalo house that had an upstairs apartment that I assume he rented. There were Reader’s Digests from the 80s and I think maybe some old People Magazines (perhaps when Bruce Jenner was still Bruce Jenner). I’ve received excellent care all of these years (no, I’m not going to tell you how many).
About a year ago he merged his practice with several other physicians. The new office is huge, clearly the work of an interior designer, with a big flat-screen TV, a fish tank, coffee service, lots of recent magazines etc. My doctor told me that he had to change his practice because of Obamacare. But I couldn’t help but wonder: How many of these office upgrades were because of Obamacare and how many were because society keeps raising the proverbial bar in order to sell more stuff?
I don’t need a huge, flat-screen TV blaring Fox News when I see my doctor, I need medical treatment. I can bring my own coffee.
One of my nieces recently turned 30. I told her it was one of my favorite decades and she said that many people told her the same. It seems between 30 and 40 I became comfortable in my own skin and ready to define what I wanted my life to look like, having accumulated 30 years of other people’s opinions, judgments and measurements of success and happiness. Do you know how useful other people’s (especially unrequested) opinions are? Yeah, not at all.
Why would you permit anyone else’s opinion about money, success and happiness define your own?
Do you want to know what we all want?
We want better relationships.
We want more time to do meaningful things – however we define “meaningful”– either alone or with people who are nice.
The reality is, many of us must work in order to support ourselves and our families (and support a lifestyle that we may not even be actively, consciously choosing) and sometimes there’s very little time to improve our relationships or to do meaningful things. This article about our 40-hour work week has some pretty keen insights about that.
But the 9-5 middle America world that existed before the Great Recession is now becoming more unusual and I see many people cobbling together a life for themselves doing a variety of jobs, mainly out of necessity… but bless necessity for she is the Mother of Invention.
Let’s get inventing your version of The Good Life, shall we?
Crafting your own definition of “enough,” “success” and “the good life” will free you from needless worry and useless strivings and lead you towards peace and abundance.
The financial planning process is merely a tool to validate the numbers and ensure your money is doing the jobs it needs to do.
- First, what is really, really important to you?
- When do you feel you are “in the zone?” What are you doing?
- How do you earn money and can you do it for a long time, happily?
If not, what else could you do?
- What activities contribute to your well-being? The well-being of your family?
How often are you doing them?
What are you doing instead? Why?
Can you control at least some of the obstacles preventing you from doing these things? How?
- If you could make up a universal truth, what would it be?
- What was your last large purchase and why did you make it? What parts of your life became whole because of it?
- What are some of your regular – perhaps mindless – purchases?
- If you had enough food, adequate shelter, basic clothing and medical care and you had to spend 90% of your income on one category in your budget, what would it be?
What would get the other 10%?
You see, your answers to these questions serve as revelations about your ideals; the reasons why you have done the things you’ve done and, more importantly, what you may want to do differently and why.
I was reading the May 2015 edition of IBPA (Independent Book Publisher’s Association) magazine and specifically an article by Executive Director Angela Bole on being “Guided by Why.” Ms. Bole shared something from her friend Trey about “why power:”
“Most of us like to give in to the idea that willpower will be the force that can compel us to achieve any goal, but to heck with that. Willpower alone will let you down, whereas the real hero, Why Power, will in fact push you to greatness.
Your choices are only meaningful when they align with your desires and dreams. The wisest and most motivating choices are the ones which you identify with your purpose.
If you want something, you have to know WHY you want it or else it’s all too easy to lose steam as you work to achieve it.”
You might be happier and more content than you realize.
You may already be living your version of The Good Life!
If not, let’s get to work.
Wishing you peace and abundance,